Fish pie

Serves 4-6
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Fish pie is honest, down-to-earth food, packed with flavours. It makes perfect comfort food if you are sitting in front of the television after a hard day, but works equally well as a dinner-party main course. You can make this dish the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight. The basic recipe can be varied endlessly, according to what fish are available and what you like, but it is always good to include some smoked fish. Other than salmon, though, it is usually best to avoid oily fish. And don't use game fish, such as swordfish or tuna. The mashed potato topping also gives lots of scope for jazzing up: you can flavour it with more cheese, some herbs or even saffron.

Fish pie is honest, down-to-earth food, packed with flavours. It makes perfect comfort food if you are sitting in front of the television after a hard day, but works equally well as a dinner-party main course. You can make this dish the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight. The basic recipe can be varied endlessly, according to what fish are available and what you like, but it is always good to include some smoked fish. Other than salmon, though, it is usually best to avoid oily fish. And don't use game fish, such as swordfish or tuna. The mashed potato topping also gives lots of scope for jazzing up: you can flavour it with more cheese, some herbs or even saffron.

500ml fish stock, click here for fish stock recipe (or a good-quality fish stock cube dissolved in 500ml hot water)
2tbsp dry vermouth
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored and finely diced (optional)
250g fillets of white fish, such as pollack, skinned, any residual bones removed and fillets cut into rough 3cm chunks
175g salmon fillet, skinned, any residual bones removed and fillets cut into rough 3cm chunks
175g smoked fish fillet, skinned, any residual bones removed and fillets cut into rough 3cm chunks
150g small-to-medium peeled raw prawns (optional)
2tbsp chopped mixed green herbs, such as parsley, dill and chervil
60g butter
11/2kg potatoes, cooked and mashed with a little milk
20g fresh white breadcrumbs
20g grated Parmesan cheese

for the sauce

50g butter
50g flour
175ml double cream
2tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp anchovy essence
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

In a large saucepan, bring the fish stock and vermouth to the boil, add the onion and fennel, turn down the heat and cook gently for 8 minutes. Add the fish and prawns, and poach for 2 minutes. Drain in a colander over a bowl, reserving the cooking liquid, and leave to cool.

To make the sauce: melt the butter in a heavy-based pan over a low heat, then stir in the flour and cook gently for a minute. Gradually add the reserved fish poaching liquid, stirring well until it has all been added and the mixture is smooth. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Add the cream and continue to simmer for 10 minutes or so until the sauce has a thick consistency. Stir in the mustard and anchovy essence. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper if necessary, then leave to cool for about 15 minutes or so.

Gently fold into the sauce the cooked fish and prawns with the fennel and onion pieces, and the herbs. Spoon into a large pie dish or several individual ones, filling to 3cm from the top. Leave to set for about 30 minutes, so that the potato will sit on the sauce.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and mix the butter into the mashed potato. Season with a little salt and freshly ground white pepper and add a little milk so that it is just soft enough to pipe with a piping bag or spread with a spatula on to the fish.

Bake for 30 minutes (or 20 minutes for little ones). Scatter on the breadcrumbs and cheese, and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden on top.

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